Do Content Marketers Compete?

By: Guest | February 28, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Andy Crestodina

I’m a capitalist, so I love the concept of competition.

I’m in a very “competitive” industry, but I’ve often said I don’t really have competitors.

What I mean is everyone is a potential partner. If you think you’re competing with someone, you just don’t know them well enough yet.

I recently realized many of the people who agree with this philosophy are also doing content marketing.

I began to wonder, do content marketers compete?  

My answer is no.

Why not just ignore the competition?

Or better yet, why not collaborate with them?

Be Original, Just Like Them

In marketing, you may have the same goals as other companies, but if you’re doing content marketing, you really aren’t trying to win the same race. You’re focused on finding your voice, telling your story, and teaching. If we’re all out there being original, when do we meet on the battlefield? If we’re all running in our own directions, is it really a race?

Think about it. You and your “competitor” are both focused on truly knowing yourselves and what makes you different. You’re producing original content, in a genuine voice. You never hear people say, “Hey! They’re unique in the way I’m unique!” If it’s true, than neither of you are unique, and you’re not doing it right.

Collaborate, Cooperate, Compete?

The real victories in web marketing are borne out of collaboration. All the best techniques – guest blogging, sharing, commenting, networking, even speaking on panels – are all so cooperative, anyone who wanted direct competition would soon find themselves sitting out of the game completely.

The dominant culture in social media is positive. Advice is given freely and thank yous are the norm. Negativity directed at competitors in social media is very rare, probably because it would backfire quickly.

Inbound Means Ignoring Competitors?

Inbound marketing is called such because the potential customers come to you. Companies who use inbound typically don’t know who else the potential client is talking to.

And if you’re practicing the true virtues of inbound marketing (“out-teach the competition”) you actually don’t care who you’re competing with. You’re just trying to help the person you’re talking to, and if they hire you, great! If not, no problem. As in, “Oh you’re talking to other companies? Good idea.”

So I don’t recommend competing, or even thinking about the so-called competition. If you meet someone who considers themselves your competitor, it may be awkward at first, but if you keep the conversation going, you’re sure to find they have different specialties, approaches, pricing or timeframes. I would try to help them too.

Except…In SEO

As you read this, a giant robot (Google) is giving someone a top 10 list of companies (a search engine results page) for the service you provide (your top keyphrase). This is the ultimate competition.

Search engine rankings are insanely visible, and extremely valuable.  It’s a brutal, to-the-death contest of wills and endurance. Are you in the top 10? The top three?

If you want to compete, compete for rankings. Be ruthless. Never surrender in search!

Andy Crestodina is a 12-year veteran in web marketing and the strategic director of Orbit Media, a Chicago web development firm where he collaborates on content marketing with anyone who is interested. You can find Andy on and Twitter.

  • delwilliams

    @ginidietrich Of course they compete.

  • crestodina

     @delwilliams  Are you sure? I’ve been doing content marketing for years, and I can’t name a single “competitor.”  With the exception of SEO, I can’t think of an example of actual competition… 

  • Just remember consumers don’t benefit when the providers are better friends with each other than they are with their customers. You can only go so far with this concept before you start to break the law. 🙂

  • Byron Fernandez

     andycrestodina THANK YOU. We needed this…timely and poignant. Coming from arts/PR that melded into content, social, inbound I tend to share you stance on the competition :: collaboration frontier. 
    As in most things digital, there are those who seem to lean toward divisive tactics. Can’t empathize. Personally, I’m unfazed by others journeys or destinies toward Truth, and I don’t presume to have all the answers — least of all impose them upon others Free Will. TylerOrchard and I were recently discussing this. 
    Choice is powerful. Unique, original, individual consciousness and identity supplements that manifestation. 
    I envision a world where we care less about externalities — and often our unmitigated lack of control over such things — and more about internal harmony with ourselves. That transcends circumstance , prejudice, negativity, fear or judgement — and reaches out to/influences others in a memetic, infectious way. That to me is the beginning of significance over Success. 

    • crestodina

       @Byron Fernandez   TylerOrchard Agreed. Besides, collaboration is just way more fun.
      Can you imagine anyone contributing to a blog like this, or even commenting on one, if they were territorial about knowledge and relationships? I’ve found that the more I teach and the more information I give away, the more successful I am…
      The way content marketing works, possessive egomaniacs are punished. And open, humble, generous marketers are rewarded.

  • TylerOrchard

    @byron_fernandez Hey, Byron. I am mentioning you right here. Thanks for the inclusion. It was a great discussion!

    • byron_fernandez

      @TylerOrchard Don’t often opt-in for the Shoutout mention thingy, but it is kinda A/B, SpinSucks-ian 😉 Hope you’re enjoying the week Boss

  • IAmAdamGreen

    @crestodina @marketingprofs @blfarris @juntajoe A fine article (and the answer is yes… except that we’re pretty nice about it)

    • blfarris

      @iamadamgreen I don’t know, I think in some ways a high tide raises all boats. More people talking about something, more ppl listening too.

      • IAmAdamGreen

        @blfarris Ah, should have added that I agree overall w/ the post! Except for SEO, I rarely feel very competitive. Collaborative? Definitely.

  • I think it’s more of “in a high tide all boats rise”. Even if we are all talking about the same thing that makes people wonder what all the fuss is about.
    The other thing about content marketing is that it is naturally narrowcasting. I’m reaching out for that specific market that responds to my ideas and my voice. There truly is no competition for that niche (because no one can be me!)

    • JonathanBranca

       @blfarris I admire your commitment to nautical references, Capt’n Farris. blfarris crestodina 

      • crestodina

         @JonathanBranca  @blfarris  Seems like the industries where information is guarded (law, healthcare, finance…and tradeshows?) are the slowest to adapt to content marketing and they’ll be the last to reap the benefits.
        I know lawyers and finance guys who are afraid of LinkedIn!

  • JonathanBranca

    Well said, Andy. My industry has a very paranoid, lookin’-over-their-shoulders mentality in regard to clients.  And that is why content/inbound marketing and social tactics are the exception over the rule, as no one wants to give anyone an edge, or a peek into their own secret sauce.  I see a shift happening, however, and those of us that shift and embrace your ideas will find themselves ahead in the near future.

  • Partnership is where it’s at, very true. Everyone has their preference of client size, type, length, and there’s often SO much work out there among the ranks if the talented. Partnering with or sub-contracting to respected colleagues and getting referrals from prior and current clients are 2 great ways to constantly grow your business.

  • lindaw

    In the ‘offline’ world it strikes me that so-called competitors actually achieve more when they work together, can’t see why it should be any different in the ‘online’ world. Each brings their own unique ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the party and everyone benefits with ultimately a better brand – though I might be a taddy bit naive, I like to think it’s true!

  • Couldn’t agree more! I walk the talk all the time — I work with several small companies on projects all the time. On paper, we look like competition but we each have our own strong points. We all decided to work together so we could go after bigger client projects and only work on the pieces that we do well. It seems like the client benefits from these collaborations as they get the best work from all of us.

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  • KVelez1

    @crestodina No problem! It was great info! 🙂

  • crestodina

    @MadamWard thank you for sharing that, Kelly!

  • This is an amazing and well-written article with some very original ideas and thoughts. Thanks  for sharing it with us. I have found it most inspiring.

    • crestodina

      @Kim Smith I’m glad you liked it, Kim. I once wrote a guide to collaboration for bloggers. You can probably find it by searching for “blogger collaboration” If you have anything to add, please let me know!

  • Content marketing is quite powerful because it spreads the links of your website and it is quite good for the popularity of your web page. The blogger has done a great job, and the above blog is really helpful.

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